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Mstislavl, Mstislavl County, Mogilev District, Belarus

To enlarge the map click here Jewish Cemetery in Mstislavl
Photo by Alexander Litin, 2008 Jewish Cemetery in Mstislavl
Photo by Alexander Litin, 2008
The International Institute for Holocaust Research

Jews were first mentioned as residing in Mstislavl in the 16th century. By the 19th century the town had become an important Jewish center. At the end of the century about 5,000 Jews lived there, comprising 54 percent of the total population. Shimon Dubnov, the famous Jewish historian and ideologue of Jewish diaspora nationalism, was born in the town in 1860. In the Soviet period the employment pattern of the Jews changed. With the liquidation of private enterprise in the USSR by the beginning of 1930s, more Jews began to work in crafts, while others became employees in government institutions or worked in agricultural cooperatives. During the interwar period many Jews left for other locations, especially Moscow and Leningrad. A Yiddish school operated in Mstislavl from 1920. In mid-1938 it was closed and all 130 students were transferred to a Belarusian school. In January 1939 2,067 Jews lived in the town, comprising 19.7 percent of the population.
The Germans occupied Mstislavl on July 7, 1941. Many Jews tried to escape but only a few of them succeeded in reaching the Soviet interior. With the help of some Belarusians the Germans quickly succeeded in compiling a list of the local Jews. In September 1941 all local Jews were concentrated in a ghetto. The Germans required the Jews to wear the yellow Magen David and to perform forced labor. The Jews of Mstislavl were killed by the Germans with the assistance of local policemen in two main murder operations in September and October 1941.
The Red Army liberated the town on September 28, 1943.